Often I find myself sitting on the porch steps after dark. There usually isn’t much to see except the fluttering silhouette of a Brown bat as it passes over in the moonlit sky, or the shadowy figure of a bunny skipping across the yard. I like to relax and listen to the night life around me. The bird-like songs of the Gray tree frogs come to me from several directions. I close my eyes and my sense of smell comes alive with the sweet scent of the blooming Mock Orange bush at the edge of the garden. All around me I smell wet earth and moist green foliage. The earth in summer is a beautiful bouquet of fragrances, waiting to be inhaled.
The low drone of a June bug’s wings passes by my face and fades into the garden. I begin to pick out other insect sounds, a cricket here and there, and the sharp buzz of a mosquito at my ear. There is one flying insect that I can hear and see—fireflies. The darkness sparkles with their flashing lights. Here’s an insect that can let you know where it is without making a sound. The firefly’s ability to give off light is compliments of bio-luminescent organs on the underside of its abdomen. A series of complex chemical reactions results in the release of thousands of tiny sparks of light that we see as bright flashes. The brightness, frequency, and duration of these flashes are regulated by the nervous system. This process is virtually one hundred per cent efficient, as nearly all of the energy is given off as light. By comparison, an incandescent light bulb loses ninety per cent of its electrical energy as heat, and the heat produced by a candle flame is 80,000 times hotter than a light of the same brightness produced by a firefly. I found that information in the National Wildlife Federation’s “Field Guide to the Insects and Spiders.”
Early the following morning, the Canada goose family stands preening themselves in the early morning sun. The downy gray goslings stay close to their parents and are constantly searching the ground for something tasty to eat. Little, downy geese are so sweet and never fail to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
The dew drenched grass soaked my pants to the knees while on my morning walk, but it doesn’t bother me. Such things never keep me from a walk down Nature’s Trail. There were three new flowers in bloom that I couldn’t resist looking at more closely. The Pink peonies opened yesterday. They look kind of droopy after the pounding rain last night, but are beautiful nonetheless. When it comes to sweet fragrance, peonies are as good as it gets. Besides, it’s fun to stick my nose in all those pretty petals.
The Black-eyed Susans are only a sunny day away from unfolding their yellow petals, but the flower buds can often be as pretty as the flowers. A week from now, the hillside in the meadow will be covered with yellow daisies and Black-eyed Susans. They have spread over an acre since I planted their seeds ten years ago. I spotted another kind of yellow flower under the tall sumac where I’d never seen it before: Yellow hawkweed. It’s about 10 inches tall with beautiful, lemon-yellow flowers.
I got a call from a good friend today asking me what to do with a young oriole that had just left the nest and landed on the ground. She said it had all its feathers but didn’t seem to fly very well. I told her to put it up in the crotch of a tree where the parents would find and feed it. It was interesting to get that call, because it was 39 years ago this week, on the 28th of June, that I wrote the first “Down Nature’s Trail,” a story about young orioles that had been blown out of a nest in a storm.
There is a three and half foot long snake in the flower garden. I haven’t seen it, but I know it’s there, because I spotted its shed skin at the edge of the garden path. The newly shed skin was all in one piece and easy to measure. I really couldn’t know what kind of snake it was, but the faded markings ruled out a garter snake. I guess I’ll know what kind of snake it is when I see it. I just have to keep an eye out for a three and a half foot long snake.
The camera has virtually eliminated my use of binoculars. The zoom function takes the place of binoculars, while the camera records what I’m looking at. I love to bring Nature up close with the camera. I can see every detail of a tiny, long-legged fly sitting on a bee-balm leaf simply by taking a picture. No more waiting to get the film developed. It has opened the door to a whole new world of tiny wildlife that I’ve never really been able to see so close up. It has broadened my understanding of and respect for those creatures that go unnoticed in the world of Nature.
If you love Nature and would like to see as much of it as possible, I suggest you get a camera.
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